Friday, July 07, 2006
Greetings from Weardale.
The hot, still weather continued through yesterday, and by the afternoon the mine tunnel was truly a cool and inviting place to be. Things appear to have changed overnight, and we now have a good breeze and clouds racing through the dale, coming from the west. At least the weather seems to be getting back to normal.
Wednesday I spent a better past of the day tied to the computer, doing accounting work for our business back home in California. Isn't the internet wonderful? It also means that when ever you do something like contact Microsoft for technical support, you converse with someone from an exotic location such as Bangalore. A while back, we were having some problems with our broadband connection at home and I ended up speaking with a very helpful woman from St. Johns, Newfoundland. As it was during the winter, I also got a good review of the local cross-country skiing conditions, should I ever happen to visit.
Back to the subject at hand, I had wrapped up most of my spreadsheet duties by mid afternoon, and headed to the mine, where I found Byron happily sawing away at the larger bits we've so far managed to collect. A few more nice pieces emerged, but nothing quite up to the quality of the one pictured in an earlier e-mail. Never the less, I promptly began the cleaning process on these beauties in hopes of having some things to carry back and update the website with later this month. About the same time, our sultry weather decided to really get into the swing of things and some thunder storms developed, mostly up dale to the west. Things did get sufficiently dramatic in our area that I got some good cloud photos, one of which is today's feature.
Thursday morning was spent on another round of telephone tag, trying to chase down sources of both red (off-road) diesel fuel, and some new miner's cap lamps. For those of you unfamiliar with the subject, red diesel is designated for use in non-vehicular, off-road applications, and is not taxed. With fuel prices here around one pound per liter (almost $7 US per gallon), having red diesel to use in our compressor and hydraulic power unit saves us a good bit of money. This being an agricultural area with lots of off-road farm equipment and such, one would think red diesel would be easy to come by. The folks at Watson's garage told us that they will be stocking it, but haven't had a delivery yet. In the past, we've also bought some from a local farmer, but we haven't been able to connect with him yet. It's haying time right now, so no doubt he's been busy in the fields rather than attending his telephone. The hunt will continue today.
The traditional miner's cap lamps we've used in the past are made up of a fairly weighty wet-cell lead-acid battery that attached to a belt, and a halogen lamp that fits onto a helmet. With the decline of underground mining, these things are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Two years ago we purchased a couple of units that came from a South African manufacturer. They died on us fairly quickly, and in my searches yesterday, I found that these are the only lights of this type still available, and no one keeps them in stock. All portable underground lighting seems to have gone over to LED-based units. These are very light-weight and more efficient that traditional filament bulbs, and run off of standard drycell batteries. I picked up one for myself before coming over this year, and am happy with its performance. Guess we'll be switching to these when the last of our old lamps finally die on us.
After concluding my telephone duties, I headed off to the mine, and spent a bit of time chasing a seam of fluorite in the East Cross Cut. This seam has been a right tease for a while. The fluorite is a lovely bright green color, but so far the seam has been real small and tight, with few cavities. I spent some time digging at it two years ago, and managed to get a couple nice specimens for all my efforts. As Dave was still tidying up in the West Cross Cut, I decided to try my luck here once more. After a fair amount of excavation I managed to uncover a modest sized opening filled with our fabulously tenacious mud, and some nice green bits showing on what I could see of the roof. About the time Byron decided it was time to pack it in for the day, I managed to get the roof plate loose enough to extract, and hauled it out to the landing for a good wash. What emerged was a plate, about 15 cm long, covered with gemmy, deep green fluorite crystals with incredibly intense blue daylight fluorescence. The only down side was a large patch of old damage right across the center! Hopefully there will be some more undamaged bits to be found today.
Summer clouds from some thunderstorms.